Urban archery hunts are more than an added opportunity for hunters, they’re a sound technique to manage deer populations where they have become too abundant and have caused conflicts with people.
Ralph Meeker, the deer program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, says certain wildlife populations have flourished in the last five decades, but there can be a downside. Each year, deer cause thousands of dollars in damage to people’s landscaping and present a danger to motorists in rural neighborhoods.
“All wildlife have what is called ‘social carrying capacity,’” Meeker said. “That’s the density of a wildlife population where they begin to become a nuisance or danger. A few areas in Arkansas that have high populations of people in relatively rural settings have reached this threshold, so the AGFC works with those cities and towns to find solutions.”
Urban hunts are one of the best tools wildlife managers can use to reduce these populations without more expensive techniques such as sharpshooters.
Hunting is the most efficient means we have to control deer populations,” Meeker said. “We have hunters who want to help, and the harvest helps control the deer’s numbers.”
Even deer that are not harvested will scatter back to surrounding wildlife habitat once the added hunting pressure is apparent.
“These hunts allow hunters to enjoy their sport while offering an important service to the public and contribute to needy Arkansans throughout the state,” Meeker said. “All hunters must donate their first adult deer harvested to Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry.”
Meeker works with the Arkansas Bowhunters Association and city officials to coordinate the hunts throughout the state. Hunters who participate in the hunts must attend an orientation where they must pass a proficiency test with the archery equipment they intend to use during the hunt. An orientation fee is collected, which covers the insurance policy for the hunt most cities require.
Meeker says the added attraction of an early September hunt also helps drive people to participate.
“Urban hunts open Sept. 1, so they’re the best chance an Arkansas hunter has at getting a buck in velvet, which is on some hunter’s bucket lists,” Meeker said. “Early season hunting isn’t for everyone, but the hunts continue all the way through the end of February for some locations, giving hunters plenty of time to harvest an urban deer.”
All urban hunts follow stringent guidelines to ensure the safety of hunters and local landowners is maintained, some of these guidelines differ from hunt to hunt. In addition to orientations and shooting proficiency tests, all hunters must have passed the International Bowhunters Education Program course to participate.
Deer harvested during urban hunts do not count toward a hunter’s seasonal limit. There are no limits to the number of deer that can be harvested in urban hunts and all antler restrictions are lifted. All deer harvested must still be checked to the appropriate urban deer zone.
The following areas will have urban hunts for the 2020-21 season: